Is NITI Aayog old wine in a new bottle?
Mains Paper 2: Polity
Prelims level: Niti Aayog
Mains level: Niti Aayog’s recent performance and it comparison with Planning
- The Narendra Modi government has its plate full.
- It needs to increase employment and incomes; revive investments
and growth; untangle the financial sector; navigate muddied-up international
trade; solve the perennial problems of poor education and health, and the
growing problems of environmental pollution and water scarcity.
- Even though statistical confusion was created in the run-up to the
election to deny that problems of unemployment and growth were serious,
high-powered Cabinet committees have been formed to tackle them.
- Regardless of whether or not India has the fastest growing GDP, it
has a long way to go to achieve economic and social inclusion, and restore
- India’s problems are complex because they are all interrelated.
Fixing one part of the system alone can make matters worse.
- For example, providing skills to millions of youth before there
are enough employment opportunities is a bold fix that can backfire. The
complexity of the task demands a good plan and a good strategy.
- Since India has not done as well as it should have to produce
faster growth with more inclusion and sustainability, one would have to
surmise that it has not developed the requisite capabilities.
- Mr. Modi has known this. Indeed, the first major reform he
announced in his first term was to abolish the Planning Commission.
- He replaced it with the loftily titled ‘National Institution for
How else would it persuade the States to do what it wanted them to do?
- Chief Ministers retorted that the Planning Commission must improve
its ability to understand their needs and to develop ideas that they would
want to adopt because they accepted the ideas as good for them, not because
they would have to if they wanted the money.
- Mr. Modi, as a powerful Chief Minister, understood well the
limitations in the Planning Commission’s capabilities and what it needed to
do to reform itself, which the investigations commissioned by Dr. Singh had
- It is not surprising, therefore, that the bold charter of NITI
Aayog that Mr. Modi announced in 2015 was consistent with the insights that
Dr. Singh and Vajpayee had earlier.
- He was implementing an idea whose time had come.
A good starting point
- Implementation of radical change is never easy. If things don’t go
well soon, nostalgia will rise for the old order even though there was
dissatisfaction with it. And the change-maker will be blamed for the
- The NITI Aayog charter is a good starting point for a new journey
in transforming the governance of the Indian economy.
- The NITI Aayog and the government would do well to conduct an
open-minded review of what NITI Aayog has achieved so far to adopt the new
role described in its charter that of a catalyst of change in a complex,
federal, socioeconomic system.
- And assess whether it has transformed its capabilities
sufficiently to become an effective systems reformer and persuader of
stakeholders, rather than merely an announcer of lofty multi-year goals and
manager of projects, which many suspect it is.
Points missed by NITI Aayog
- There is deep concern that NITI Aayog has lost its integrity as an
independent institution to guide the government; that it has become a
mouthpiece of the government and an implementer of the government’s
- Many insist that NITI Aayog must have the ability to independently
evaluate the government’s programmes at the Centre and in the States.
- Some recall that an Independent Evaluation Office set up in the
last days of the UPA-II government was swiftly closed by the NDA government.
- Others counter that the Planning Commission had a Programme
Evaluation Organisation all along and which continues.
- They miss the need for fundamental transformation in the approach
to planning and change.
- The traditional approach of after-the-fact evaluation sits in the
old paradigm of numbers, budgets and controls.
- The transformational approach to planning and implementation that
21st century India needs, which is alluded to in NITI’s charter, requires
evaluations and course-corrections in the midst of action.
- It requires new methods to speed up ‘organisational learning’
amongst stakeholders in the system who must make plans together and
implement them together.
- The NITI Aayog’s charter has provided a new bottle.
- It points to the need for new methods of cooperative learning and
cooperative implementation by stakeholders, who are not controlled by any
central body of technical experts with political and/or budgetary authority
- Merely filling this new bottle with old ideas of budgets, controls
and expert solutions from above will not transform India.
- The debate about NITI Aayog’s efficacy must focus on whether or
not it is performing the new role it must, and what progress it has made in
acquiring capabilities to perform this role, rather than slipping back into
the ruts of yesterday’s debates about the need for a Planning Commission.
Q.1) With reference to BHIM Aadhaar Pay, consider the following
1. It is a payment interface which allows real-time payments to merchants
using Aadhaar number.
2. The customer is authenticated through his biometrics.
3. There is no limit on the amount of money paid in each transaction.
Which of the statements given above is/are correct?
(a) 1 only
(b) 1 and 2 only
(c) 1, 2 and 3
(d) 2 and 3 only
Q.1) Does the Indian government have the capability to make good plans
and strategies to address its complex challenges?